Musical duo starts new groove in The Grove


Dorian (keyboards) and Dorothea (upright bass) May are jazzing up Cottage Grove.

Performing monthly on Art Walk nights at Covered Bridge Brewing Group, the musicians are preparing for their fourth performance tomorrow, March 25, at the brewery.

As a genre, the jazz umbrella is vast, encompassing countless types and styles, but the Mays lean toward what they call “family friendly” jazz at Covered Bridge.

“I would say it’s a cross-section of jazz,” said Dorothea, “from early jazz, to some modern and some Brazilian and Latin.”

They often draw from the “Great American Songbook,” a collection of the most important and influential American popular songs and jazz standards from the early to mid-20th century.

Some of the “jazzier” jazz songs can be difficult entry points for audiences not accustomed to the genre, “So we try to weigh it toward the audience as much as possible,” said Dorian.

Depending on the number of people playing in the group in a given performance, the band is known interchangeably as the “Dorian May Trio/Quartet/etc.” Saxophone, drums or trumpet may make an appearance, depending on the night.

At last month’s performance, the band (a quartet that night), earned vocal appreciation from the audience. And despite the proximity of musicians to patrons, the four-piece ensemble managed to strike a fitting blend of atmospheric tunes and finger-snapping melodies for the setting.

“We want [the audience] to enjoy the experience. They could be talking and that’s fine; that doesn’t bother us at all,” said Dorian. “What we are trying to do here is more like an ambience setting, where people can talk and it’s not going to be a problem for anybody.”

Dorian said it’s a skill the two developed in their days performing in venues such as the tight quarters of the Headlands Coffeehouse in Fort Bragg, California.

The Mays spend a couple decades performing in Mendocino County, where they were often accompanied by a cello, flute and vocalists — or simply performed as a duo.

“We played all kinds of different venues: anything from a jazz club, where people sit and listen … but we also learned how to play in small restaurants where a table could be right in front of you,” said Dorothea.

Last September, they moved to the Cottage Grove/Creswell area and have gradually been getting acclimated since, finding their groove both socially and musically.

Dorian recalled that, when scoping Cottage Grove for places to play, he happened to walk into Covered Bridge Brewing Group “and they have some really intense John Coltrane jazz playing on the speakers. So I knew that was a good sign.”

By Christmas time, the musicians were back on stage.

The dulcet duo, while an accomplished act themselves, are aspiring to re-create a musical network in their new home. So far, just a handful of area musicians have been logged into their rolodex, but they are eager to see that list grow.

They aim to connect with different jazz musicians in the county and bring them to shows, giving the opportunity to feature different musicians every month.

“We’re always looking for somebody new to bring into the fold, so to speak, but also rotate people who work out really good that the audience likes,” said Dorian.

At any given Dorian May group performance, one may see area musicians G.T. Albright on drums, Marty Weissbarth or Stephen Perry on tenor sax, James Britten on congas or Kaleo Larssen on trumpet.Aside from a diverse flow of artists through their group, Dorian said he’s also interested in expanding the community jazz experience to include Sunday jam sessions.

“They shouldn’t be a total beginner,” he added regarding those who might show up. “They should be to be able to go up there and at least have prepared, know the song and have something they could do with it.”

As the network grows, the Mays are excited to open musical doors to the community.

“We look forward to making jazz available to people in Cottage Grove,” said Dorian. “Instead of having to drive to Eugene to get it, or somewhere else in Portland, we want to be able to make it accessible, so they could have a nice evening of jazz.”

For inquiries or booking information, send email to [email protected] Also search Facebook for Dorian May Jazz or Dorian May Trio.

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